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15 types of food and drinks that will help Pakistanis get through this hot Ramazan

Published: June 19, 2015
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KARACHI: Brace yourselves, Pakistanis. If Nasa reports are to be believed, this will be one of the hottest, driest Ramazan the country has ever seen. This means you need to be well hydrated, and eat a balanced nutritious Sehri and Iftar so that your energy levels do not sink and make you dysfunctional during your fast. A well rounded diet is needed. Instead of a table laden with less nutritious food choices, let us try and opt for quality rather than quantity…lesser but tastier and more nutritious dishes.

So even if you continue with a bit of the samosa pakora binges, here are 15 suggestions from The Express Tribune that will give you considerable energy boosts. Happy Fasting!

1. Lassi or Chaach

Yogurt will be your saviour so add it to your diet in every possible form. Lassi is the thicker, often sweet version of our yogurt based favourite drink. Sweet Lassi can have different flavours with adding in fruits, specially delicious mangoes. But Chaach, thinner in consistency and seasoned with a little salt, is actually a great choice at Iftar, as it replenishes the body’s lost salts.

2. Haleem, Hareesa or Shola

These all-in-ones have ingredients from all food groups. Haleem is most popular, with protein of meat and pulses. But Hareesa is also an amazing option. It basically omits the pulses and uses boiled, cracked or ground wheat and meat as the main ingredients. Shola is a similar mix of mince meat, spinach, lentils and rice. At Iftar, these are excellent options.

3. Mewa (Dried fruit and nuts)

We normally associate dried fruit and nuts with winter, but while fasting we need the rich nutrition they provide. Other than the usual almonds, peanuts and walnuts, also go for dried apricots, plums, prunes, kishmish (raisins) and figs for much needed fibre. You need the Vitamin E, Calcium, minerals, Omega-3 and protein they provide.

4. Yogurt smoothies and home-made fruit yogurt

Yes, yoghurt makes a re-entry on the list. This season has the biggest variety of fruits. So go for yogurt-based smoothies with peaches, mangoes, cherries and apricots. Chop the same fruits for a healthier variety and whip them into some sweetened yogurt.

TIP: Add a dash of jelly powder and jelly cubes and see the result.

5. Filled parathas

This is the complete meal, delicious with chutney, achar and kachoomar (finely chopped onions and tomatoes with lemon juice). Fillings can be any and many. Qeema, mashed potatoes, cooked gobhi (cauliflower), or even channa daal. For a healthier variety, make them with whole whaet four and  replace regular oil or ghee with olive oil.

6. Kabab Shabab

Different kinds are life saviours for people on the go. So stock up! Shaami kababs, chapli kababs, potato cutlets, finger kababs or those made with dum ka qeema….any and every variety is great for both Sehri and Iftar. They provide the much needed meat quotient to your diet in Ramazan and blend well with anything.

7. Laal sharbat concoctions

A Pakistanis Ramazan without Rooh Afza and all its sister brands is incomplete. Refreshing and light, it is known to have herbal ingredients that fight the effects of hot winds that can cause a heat stroke. Have it as is or add it to your Limo Paani (lemonade). A great idea is to have it with milk and slivered nuts for Sehri.

8. Chaat variations

This is a no-brainer and a given, and perhaps THE healthiest and most sensible choice when it comes to our traditional Pakistani Iftar. One can go all creative with it. Separate the fruit chaat, dahi baray and Cholay (chick peas) or mix them all up for a more Anaarkali variety, its yummy and filling, and gives you a balanced meal.

9. Raita Salaad

Even regular salad eaters somehow take a hiatus from salads in Ramazan, and that is a big mistake. Keep crunchy cucumbers and chopped veggies on the side. To make it yummier, have mint raita. For a more filling variety, cucumber or baingan (eggplant) raita can be mixed to anything, like daal and salad. Remember, your body needs the greens.

10. The vital Anday

You cannot take away the eggs from a Pakistanis Sehri. So go ahead. Enjoy the khaaqina, the Pakistani omelette, the more international cheese and mushroom omelette, or boiled eggs if your health conscious. Even eggnog is a good idea for a boost. If the smell of raw egg offends you, add a few drops of Rooh Afza.

PS: Dont forget the meetha toast (French toast).

11. Sandwiches and wraps from around the world

PHOTO: FARAH KAMAL

Think outside the box. Why just go for fried stuff, that too in this heat? Go for sandwiches and wraps. Healthier ones can be in multi-grain breads and whole wheat pita. It can be wholesome if you add in greens and veggies, and you can experiment with different kinds of meats. Add feta cheese instead of cheddar if you want it to be even yummier and healthier.

12. Soups and yakhnis

You are not going to drink these outdoors under the glaring sun. So to ease your parched throat, get the much needed liquid intake, and fill yourself up, continue with soups and yakhnis if you are a soup person. They are filling and give us the salts and proteins. If vegetables and lentils are added to them, even better.

13. Kheer with sheermaal OR Jalebi, Phainee with milk

You don’t want to go so low on sugar that you are fainting away. So specially for Sehri or that midnight snack after you come home from taraweeh, these two options are hot favourites.

14. Shorbay aur salan

Again, do something off beat. You don’t have to stick to just dry qeema and bhunna gosht. Do keep at the aloo gosht and qorma. Have them with boiled rice or pulao, or even chapaati, for a complete Iftar come dinner or Sehri.

15. Bun kabab

Last but not the last, this is good at any time for any reason. Fill it with kabab, anda, chutney, cutlet or even daal. This is the ideal food that will ward away those hunger pangs.

PS: Remember, a burger can never be a bun kabab!

http://tribune.com.pk/story/906360/15-types-of-food-and-drinks-that-will-help-pakistanis-get-through-this-hot-ramazan/

My love affair with Sindhri mangoes

It doesn’t have irritating fibres that get stuck between the teeth, and allows itself to be eaten in so many forms. PHOTO: FILE

Yesterday, I tasted my first mango of the season. It was like falling in love all over again. I was sitting on an elaborate dastarkhwan on a 10th floor apartment’s spacious balcony in inner Karachi.

“Saroli is the most amazing mango, is it not?” asked the elderly host.

I sheepishly begged to differ. I am a biased Sindhri lover.

Every year, the sweltering May heat that becomes unbearable as June comes closer, is a blessing for Mango lovers.

“Ramazan will be unbearably hot this year. But chalo, at least there will be mangoes in the fruit chaat.”

This sentiment resonates inside so many of us.

And of all varieties of this fruit of paradise, there are mangoes and then there is the Sindhri.

Sindhris are a generous size; sweet but not sickeningly so, therefore you can easily have more than one – unlike its more sugary counterparts. Other mangoes may be sweeter but none beats the Sindhri for me. Or maybe, it is just the Sindh running through my veins that gives me my biased taste buds.

“How can you have mangoes with rice?”

I have heard that one a lot. I have been taught to eat the Sindhri in every way possible by my parents. Hard-core mango lovers have it with rice (a very Sindhi tradition) and with parathas, for breakfast, lunch and dinner, at teatime and even for sehri.

It doesn’t have irritating fibres that get stuck between the teeth and allows itself to be eaten in so many forms; you can slice it, cube it or blend it. It is such a cooperative variety.

But then, can we really blame it for being so amiable?

It is from the valley of Mehran, and so the Sindhri is a reflection of the people that sow it and care for it, and pluck it off trees and keep it wrapped in hay shreds till the green becomes a vibrant yellow, bit by bit.

Sure, it has its shortcomings, like its people, and it’s not perfect; too fattening, too addictive, a bit overly sensitive but very pluralistic, congenial and adjusting. That’s what’s beautiful about it; it maintains its own but mingles with other flavours too.

Lower Sindh is the largest mango-producing belt in the country. This year, estimations show that around 40% of the crop has been damaged because of heavy rains. Sindh’s production is expected to go down to 0.55 million tons from 0.64 million tons. But hopefully, there will be enough Sindhris to go around.

The export season of Pakistan’s mangoes starts from May 25. Experts expect that the country will earn $65 million at the end of the season. The Pakistan Fruit and Vegetable Exporters, Importers and Merchant Association (PFVA) have kept this season’s mango export target at 175,000 tons. However, this year, the focus will be on quality rather than quantity after neighbouring India’s mangoes were banned by EU-wide countries due to an incidence of non-European pests in India’s export. Pakistan’s largest export market in mangoes is Europe, where it exports about 24,000 mangoes annually.

Why are Pakistan’s Sindhri mangoes so sweet?

“The hotter the summer, the sweeter the Sindhri,” my father used to say, every time he returned home from orchards he caringly looked after.

Standing for hours at stretch in the sizzling 45 degrees plus heat of interior Sindh in summers had him many shades darker every time.

“You’ll get sick, abba. The workers can do it! Why must you stand in that heat?” we’d say to him.

“Sons of the soil don’t fear the heat. It makes the mangoes only sweeter,” he’d say with a smile.

The real secret of the Sindhri is, and it is no surprise there, that it bears so much heat.

Garmi garmi ko kaat deti hai. Aam apni zaat mein garam hai. Uss ko garmi hee meetha banaa sakti hai.

(Heat cuts through heat. The mango has an inherent heat-producing effect. Therefore, only heat can bring out its sweetness).

These words, which classical singing maestro Ustaad Naseer Saami said to me recently, have much wisdom in them.

Calcium carbide powder and other ripening agents used to ripen mangoes and other fruits are almost deceitful. They are harmful to human health and the sweetness tastes forced, almost like fake smiles. One must, therefore, wait patiently for the actual mango season to arrive.

This is true for not just the Sindhri but all mangoes of Pakistan. Just like its people.

The heat of difficulties eventually makes us more seasoned. Without having been through tough times, humans are unripe. Given time, may be one day Pakistanis will be the best in the world, just like the country’s mangoes, because only the heat can bring out the best in the Sindhri.

Why is SINDHRI the sweetest mango in the world – The magical secret

They are a generous size….and sweet but not sickeningly, so you can have more than one, unlike any of it’s more sugary counterparts….other mangoes may be more sugary but none is sweeter than the Sindhri to me. Or may it is just the Sindh running through my veins that gives me biased taste buds. It doesn’t have irritating fibres that get stuck between the teeth….it allows itself to be eaten in so many forms…You can slice it, cube it, blend it. It is such a cooperative variety.

But then, can we really blame it for being so amiable?

It is from the land we call Mehran…..and so the Sindhri is a reflection of the people that sow it and care for it and pluck it off trees and keep it wrapped in hay shreds till the green becomes a vibrant yellow, bit by bit.

sindhri

Sure, it has it’s shortcomings like it’s people, and it’s not perfect. Too fattening, too addictive, a bit overly sensitive.

But seriously very pluralistic, congenial and adjustable.

I have been taught to eat the Sindhri in every way possible by my parents….at breakfast with paratha, at lunch with boiled rice, at dinner chilled with cream….or just as is. And it adjusts! That’s what’s beautiful about it….maintaining it’s own but mingling and letting itself be moulded.

But the real secret of the Sindhri is, and it is no surprise there, that it bears so much heat.

“The hotter the summer, the sweeter the Sindhri,” my father used to say, every time he returned home from orchards he caringly looked after. Standing for hours at stretch in the sizzling 45 degrees plus heat of interior Sindh in summers had him many shades darker every time. “You’ll get sick, abba. They can do it! Why must you stand in that heat?” we’d say to him. “Sons of the soil don’t fear the heat. It makes the mangoes only sweeter,” he’d say with a smile.

I am biased towards the Sindhri.

But that is true for all mangoes of Pakistan…..just like the country….just like it’s people.

The heat of difficulties, I pray to Allah, will eventually make us sweeter. May be we are not ripe yet. Still a little green. Still a little undone.

But given time, we will be the best in the world, because the heat “only makes the mangoes sweeter”.

Rajasthan on my thaali, Gujrat on my table

Raj Rasoi – I love the whole experience!

Since Pondersoa closed down in Karachi which used to be my favourite ever eating out place in Karachi, I would search around for a replacement. While I got dossas and chaats thanks to some nice hang-outs for Defence/Clifton ki khawateen, I missed the magic of the thaali. I am a foodie, and am the “vegetarian/South Indian/Dossa/thaali/give me daal chawal on a banana leaf” type of a foodie.

One fine day, I heard of Raj Rasoi.

If you haven’t given it a try yet, do so.

Reasons are as under:

Ambiance: The decor. The waiters in strictly Rajasthani outfits. The paintings on the wall. I enter it and “morni baagaan maan bolay…” starts cooing inside my head and I fear Ila Arun will pop up from nowhere with white bangles upto her upper arms. Or a camel.

Service: Not being elitist. Or feudalistic. Just makes you feel special when a colourfully dressed waiter makes you wash your hands in a bright and shiny copper chilimchi…..and serves you on your thaali not once but twenty times.

Makes one feel pampered and is part of the whole experience. And it’s ok to be politically/socially incorrect at times. So yes, I enjoy feeling pseudo-royal for 90 minutes.

The FOOD: Fresh. Hot. And very veg, Rajasthani and Gujrati (except the one chicken dish they will serve in the thaali). The starters gear you up for more – the rava dhokla, the Kachumber, the Cabbage Sambharo, the Bikaneri Papad, Bhavnagri Bharela Mircha. Yumm. On the side is Gujarati Achar, Red Chutney and Dhokla Chutney!

With constant refills of parathas, puris and rice, pour on the veg delights like Moong Rasawala and specially the Gujrati Suva Kadhi. Don’t miss the palak paneer, and the numerous dishes the waiters will announce the names of but you will not understand. But they all taste good.

Drink some light salty lassi which they cutely call masala chaas.

The Halwa: The one blob of that heavenly channay ki daal ka halwa which they call “Raj Khandani Rivayat Halwa”. Utter bliss.

Top it all up with some chaai, saunf, pay the damages, and come out, thinking when should I go next.

PS: I did not get a free meal or any discount to praise this restaurant. Endorsements are strictly mine.